07 February 2012

On Religious Freedom

Rarely do I write about anything political. Rarely do I venture here into news reports and murmurings across the web. Yet, today I cannot get what I heard out of my mind; it is swilling around and - I believe - is worth considering.

NPR reported this morning (among other places) that Romney's speech in Colorodo last night included the sentence, "The first amendment of the Constitution provides the right to worship in the way of our own choice."

I agree.
Amen, Mitt .... Amen.

But what Romney and others fail to talk about in light of his own statement is that this is true for ALL Americans to worship in the way of their own choice.

Newt Gingrich compared peacefully worshiping Muslims to Nazis.
Herman Cain says the majority of American Muslims are extremists.
Romney put an extremist on his foreign policy committee.

Romney chose the language he did to stand against Obama's legislation that would require religious hospitals and schools to offer health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage and sterilization. He claims that such a requirement imposes on these religious institutions the mandate "to choose between violating their conscience or dropping health care coverage for their employees, effectively destroying their ability to carry on their work."

To be fair, Romney does comment on the fact that the Obama Administration does not require this coverage for religious institutions employing those primarily of the same faith, but he goes on to state "that is not what many religious institutions do; serving the broad public is the essence of their divine mission."

True, again, Mitt. True again.

But there is a difference between "serving the broad public" and employing thousands of people.

No one is asking Catholic hospitals to provide abortions.
No one is mandating that Catholic schools teach contraception methods in the health classes.
No one is requiring the secretary at a Southern Baptist church to be afforded this coverage.

Because that would, in fact, be asking Catholics (or Baptists or whomever) to provide to Catholics (or Baptists or whomever) that which they believe is religiously wrong.

But refusing to provide contraceptive and sterilization health care coverage to thousands of employees, who may or may not share your religious beliefs, is impinging on their First Amendment right to believe that abortion is not murder or that contraception is not condemned by God.

Over the last four years I've heard countless people - both media and person-to-person - call Obama a socialist and/or a Muslim.

JFK was the first Catholic elected to the Presidency. The oldest Western Christian tradition in the world was not an acceptable choice for president until the 1960's.
Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Mormonism is considered by many to be a cult.

Richard Land is head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention, and he says, "the definition of a cult, from a Christian perspective, is a movement that claims to be Christian and isn’t." Richard Land understands why Mormons get upset at being called a cult, but he says, “it’s just not Christianity. It’s another religion, like Islam. But [Mormons] think they are the true Christians.”

The reality of the matter is that if we're going to be a nation that practices Religious Freedom, we have to be a nation that allows that freedom for every member of this society.

We cannot marginalize the Muslim, the Atheist, the Deist, the Socialist, the Libertarian, the Bleeding Heart Liberal Christian, the Catholic, the Ultra Conservative Protestant, the "None".

In 2007, Romney said in a speech that "Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree."

I couldn't agree more, Mitt.
I couldn't agree more.

So, let's take religion out of this campaign.
Stop going after "the Christian vote" or "the Catholic vote" or "the Muslim vote."
Stop pandering to my religion and start telling me what YOU can do - not what your opposition CANNOT.

Because, as Mitt said, "If I am fortunate to become your President, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."

Religious Freedom is only religious freedom when no one - no one - is forced to comply with the beliefs of another.

I can only hope and pray that whoever wins in November will understand this.

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